BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – An Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush was convicted of attempting to assault a foreign leader yesterday and jailed for three years, dismaying many Iraqis who regard him as a hero.
Muntazer al-Zaidi, 30, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, told the Baghdad court: “What I did was a natural reaction for the crimes committed against the Iraqi people.”
Outside the courtroom, wails erupted from Zaidi’s family and other supporters when they heard the verdict. One of his brothers fainted and his sister Ruqaiya burst into tears, shouting: “Down with Maliki, the agent of the Americans”.
Zaidi earned instant global fame in December when he threw his shoes at the visiting U.S. leader, who spearheaded the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and called him a dog at a news conference.
Dhiaa al-Saadi, the head of Zaidi’s defence team, condemned the sentence as harsh and said it would be appealed.
The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush at the news conference and tried the block a shoe, described the incident as a “barbaric act”.